HMS Ashanti (F51)
|Ordered:||19 June 1936|
|Builder:||William Denny, Dumbarton|
|Laid down:||23 November 1936|
|Completed:||21 December 1938|
|Fate:||Broken up, 1949|
|Badge:||On a Field barry wavy of six Blue and White a porcupine Gold.|
|General characteristics (as built)|
|Class and type:||Tribal-class destroyer|
|Length:||377 ft (115 m) (o/a)|
|Beam:||36 ft 6 in (11.13 m)|
|Draught:||11 ft 3 in (3.43 m)|
|Propulsion:||2 × shafts; 2 × geared steam turbines|
|Speed:||36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph)|
|Range:||5,700 nmi (10,600 km; 6,600 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)|
HMS Ashanti was a Tribal-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. Following the style of her sister ships she was named for an ethnic group, in this case the Ashanti people of the Gold Coast in West Africa. She served in the Second World War and was broken up in 1949. She was the first of two Royal Navy ships to bear the name Ashanti.
Although it was initially intended for all Tribal-class destroyers to visit the land of the people after whom they were named, Ashanti was one of the few to actually do this. She sailed to Takoradi, Gold Coast, on 27 February 1939. During the visit, the ship's company was presented with a silver bell and a gold shield by the Asantehene, the ceremonial leader of the Ashanti, then the Chief Osei Tutu Agyeman Prempeh II. The ship also accepted visitors from the tribe, many of whom presented good-luck charms and symbols of valour and survival to the ship.
The following month, Ashanti, as part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, attempted to rescue the stricken submarine Thetis. Although the submarine was found still afloat, salvage attempts failed and only four men were saved when the ship sank with the remaining 99 trapped within.
Second World War
Ashanti and the 6th Flotilla started the war by working with the French Navy, but as the war dragged on, they saw less and less of each other. By 1940, her main role was anti-submarine patrols, escort duties and supporting capital ships. She was forced back to port in March 1940 after seawater leaked in and mixed with the boiler feedwater.
In April, after repairs were completed, she was deployed in the North Sea to support operations in Norway. She achieved little in this capacity, apart from being the target for numerous air attacks by German planes. One attack knocked out her main turbo-generator and the ship's power failed. She managed to zigzag her way out of the fjord and escape the attackers, and by June she was again in her role of escort and anti-submarine duties. On 10 August, she helped other naval vessels and trawlers rescue more than 300 survivors from the armed merchant cruiser HMS Transylvania which had been sunk earlier that day by the German submarine U-56 some 40 miles to the north of the Ulster coast.
When the new battleship King George V was completed, Ashanti formed part of her escort to Scapa Flow. The main threat was mines, and Ashanti, together with four other destroyers, took the lead in a secret, suicidal attempt to detonate any mines that may be in the area. In the darkness, Fame ran aground while at high speed in a murky drizzle. Ashanti was right behind her and, although only doing six knots, struck her, damaging fuel lines on both ships. Fame subsequently caught fire. The Tribal-class destroyer Maori also ran aground, destroying her ASDIC dome. Feelings were running high on board as no-one knew the objective of the operation. Matters were compounded as the tide was receding, and the destroyers were left beached waiting for high-tide. When high-tide came, the destroyers were swung round onto rocks and damaged yet further, Ashanti was so damaged by the rocks, that Vickers-Armstrongs sent out a repair crew to the site of the incident. Only after two weeks was Ashanti successfully re-floated and taken to Newcastle for extensive repairs and hull stiffening. It was almost a year before the ship was ready for action again.
Her next major deployment was with other Tribal-class destroyers in Operation Archery in the Lofoten Islands in Norway in December 1941. They cleared out the German presence in Vågsøy and used the islands as a base from which they attacked the German shipping presence. Shore targets were hit and small German boats were damaged, but the operation was abandoned on 28 December after German air attacks on the island's harbour increased. After the raid, Hitler was convinced that the British were preparing an invasion of Norway, and diverted many precious resources there in preparation for an attack.
The Tribal-class vessels were still together and after escorting Arctic convoys to Murmansk, they were sent to be part of a huge relief effort to Malta. They were then sent back to the Arctic to escort more Russian convoys. She, along with the other Tribal-class destroyers, were later re-equipped for this role, with insulation around vital areas to prevent temperature related damage.
Ashanti was an escort for the Arctic convoy PQ-18 to the Soviet Union was attacked by numerous U-boats and German aircraft. 42 Luftwaffe Heinkel He-111 torpedo bombers and 35 Junkers Ju-88 dive bombers simultaneously attacked the convoy, swamping the defenders. U-boats began shadowing the convoy and some were sunk; U-88 was sunk by the destroyer Faulknor, U-457 by Impulsive and U-589 by Onslow and aircraft from the escort carrier Avenger. Eight ships were sunk on 12 September, on 13 September, the Germans lost five Heinkels to Hurricane fighters. The tanker SS Atheltemplar was another casualty, being torpedoed on 14 September and abandoned. Later attacks were beaten off at the cost to the Germans of 20 more planes shot down. Two more merchantmen were sunk by air attack in Murmansk harbour. In total, 13 merchants were lost from the convoy.
The return convoy QP-14 was not spared German attack either, it came under attack by U-703. Ashanti and Somali worked together in hunting the U-boat, an operation which was hindered by lack of fuel. Somali, just after replacing Ashanti's position, was torpedoed by the submarine and severely damaged. Most of her crew were evacuated, but of the 80 who stayed behind to save the ship, most were lost when it eventually sank. Five other ships were sunk in the same day, four by U-435, including the minesweeper HMS Leda.
Her next deployment was for Operation Torch, in which she escorted the capital ships in preparation for the invasion of North Africa. Once the invasions had started on 8 November, she was deployed to prevent any interference from enemy ships in the Mediterranean. She remained in the Mediterranean Sea until June 1943, when more problems with her feedwater tanks required a major re-fit in the Thames commercial shipyard in the United Kingdom.
After the re-fit, she operated out of Scapa Flow escorting Arctic convoys through the long Arctic nights of late 1943. From 1944, she patrolled the English Channel in preparation for the Normandy Landings. In this capacity, she closely co-operated with the Canadian Tribal-class destroyers Haida and Huron. For the invasion itself, she patrolled the channel and guarded against German surface ships in the Southwest Approaches and the Bay of Biscay area. On 9 June, a German destroyer group was found off Brittany and engaged by Ashanti, Huron, Haida, as well as Eskimo, Javelin, and the Polish destroyers Piorun and Błyskawica. The Kriegsmarine ship Z32 was driven ashore and wrecked, Z24 was severely damaged and ZH1, the ex-Dutch destroyer Gerard Callenburgh, was sunk.
Her last action in the war was prevention of the evacuation of German personnel from France. On 5 August 1944, she engaged a German convoy off the Île d'Yeu and sank two escort minesweepers and a Patrol Vessel. Haida was damaged in the engagement.
Ashanti was then taken in for an extensive and expensive re-fit and played no further part in the fighting. Other Royal Navy Tribal-class destroyers were sent to Asia to fight against the Empire of Japan.
Ashanti had survived North Atlantic gales, technical trouble, the Norwegian Campaign, running aground, Arctic convoys, the invasion of North Africa, U-boat attacks, aircraft attacks, and some of the toughest destroyer fighting of the Second World War. Yet by the end of the war it was clear that she had out-lived her usefulness. She was paid-off and went into reserve after VJ Day. In 1947, she was put on the disposal list and used for ship target trials. On 12 April 1948 she arrived at West of Scotland Shipbreakers for demolition.
- The Times (London), Friday, 5 November 1937, p.8
- March, p.362
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